Extras for The Wedding Pianist: True Tales Part 3

Musicians – here is a post about additional tune requests you may encounter doing that special ceremony!

True Tales from a Wedding Pianist Part 1 discussed the essential tunes a musician  needs to play for a no frills basic wedding, and Part 2 was about a wild encounter I had with a last minute call from the Father of The Bride (scrambling to honor his detailed requests for his daughter’s ‘perfect wedding’). I took a little detour with a blog on Playing the Organ for Pianists (which might happen to you if no piano is available), and am now back on about extra tunes Wedding Pianists may be asked to play.

Besides the music for the Processional, Recessional, and possible music for attendants,  there are other extras which sometimes you don’t hear about until you show up at the event, when someone may say “oh by the way, can you play…”. Of course, it is always wise to discuss these in advance if possible, but have some ideas up your sleeve just in case! Alert – You may need to check  with the Officiator or Reverend about the particular church’s policy on what types of tunes they permit for weddings before leaping to accommodate certain secular requests 😉

Before the Ceremony Prelude Music:

Plan on playing 30 -40 minutes worth of a mix of tunes, beginning 20 minutes before the wedding start time. Let’s say the wedding starts at 2:00pm. You start playing at 1:40 when guests arrive, and plan to keep playing at least until 2:15 because most weddings start late. Pianists/organists have been known to stall until guests arrive and the bride and groom are really really ready, which could leave you playing nearly every tune in your repertoire. You can suggest a theme to the bride from your musical experience  such as light classical, jazz standards, hymns, worship music, romantic show tunes, cultural tunes, pop songs, and maybe throw in one special request of the Bride and Groom right before the wedding start time. Do not let a Bridezilla micromanage all this prelude music. She will not hear it because she will be stressing out getting ready in another room. (I once got a request list 28 tunes long ranging from Were You There Willie Nelson style to ACDC’s Hell’s Bells at a Catholic Mission wedding. I suggested they save the latter for the D.J. to play at the reception).

Seating of the Grandparents and Parents of the Bride and Groom:

Perhaps a tune such as Sunrise, Sunset or Over the Rainbow might be appropriate.

Candle Lighting Music:

This should be something short and sweet, unless of course the candles don’t light as planned…then you must stretch it out forever 😉  Sometimes this is done at the beginning of the ceremony by the Mothers of the Wedding Couple, or perhaps during the middle of the service and is then called a “Unity Candle Lighting” by the Bride and Groom.

Flower Giving Music:

Again, something short and sweet if the Bride and/or Groom  give flowers to the Moms.

Sand Pouring Music:

This music may be played in the background for blended families to show their coming together in certain New Age,  Christian, and more contemporary wedding ceremonies.

Ave Maria:

After communion in more traditional Catholic church weddings this may be sung as the couple takes flowers to Mary, or some weddings have The Lord’s Prayer sung. Always make sure you have the right Ave Maria and in the right key if there is a singer!

I have been asked to play quite a few unusual requests for weddings, including Pirates of the Caribbean, Beauty and the Beast, the music of J.S. Bach followed by Theme from The Twilight Zone for the Groom’s entrance, The Theme from Star Wars,  Joy to the World by 3 Dog Night, and even more surprises like Wild Thing on a church piano for a funeral. I try my best to respectfully honor specific requests the best I can, but sometimes if the wedding couple really wants the music to sound exactly like a famous artist’s orchestrated recording they will bring a CD to play.

A very good resource for downloading last minute music requests is Sheet Music Plus Online http://www.sheetmusicplus.com/digital-sheet-music

For a few dollars you can print the request from your computer in the nick of time. This website has also saved me with obtaining funeral music (which is often planned just a couple days ahead).

For more information on playing various kinds of weddings, the musical parts of the Catholic Mass, how to talk with nervous brides, get cues from wedding officials, and create a professional contract please check out my book/audio method The Complete Church Pianist.



 Complete Church Pianist CD cover

4 Replies to “Extras for The Wedding Pianist: True Tales Part 3”

  1. HI, Deb – I really enjoy reading your practical suggestions based upon all your experience – and the humor the runs through it all. By the way, having played for a few weddings over past years (and hearing a lot of related stories), what would you suggest as an appropriate musical background if the groom faints due to all the emotion associated with the current event, or just the physical outlay that preceded it?

    God bless, and my love, and keep up the stories. I trully enjoy reading them!


    1. Sometimes grooms faint due to locking their knees when standing for a long time, or from too much revelry at the bachelor’s party the night before (maybe this event should be a few days before the wedding)! I saw a groomsman hit the marble steps during an organist’s extra long version of the entire Canon in D. Some of my musician friends were in the band and saw the groom pass out and hit his head as he nervously stood up to give a speech at the reception! Everybody was stunned as the ambulance screeched over. The leader of the band said, “quick, play Bluesette” as the horrified guests watched the groom carried out the door to this (must have been surreal sounding) jazz waltz.

      I guess “I Fall in Love Too Easily” or “Falling in Love with Love” might be appropriate at such an occasion, if you can think fast enough! Yikes.

      Great to hear from you, Bub – and thanks for cheering me on!

    1. Can you believe it? I don’t think the departed’s wife quite recognized her request without the lyrics! The tune is kind of shpreckstima(sp)? anyway. I enjoy your articles and comments, Marilyn – we have similar stories about gigs as musicians.

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